No one enjoys repeated phone calls from mysterious numbers with voice messages containing the following: “we are calling to discuss an important business matter concerning [you!]” . There are a few things to know when speaking to a debt collector that can help you understand your rights and their motivations.

1. Debt collectors are not under oath when speaking to you. While there are regulations on what they can and cannot say, debt collectors are likely to use strong language to convince you of the importance and magnitude of your unpaid debt.

2. Debt collectors are far less interested in negotiating terms that work for you – they are interested in terms that collect your debt as fast as possible. Whether they have a “payment plan” you view as reasonable is not important to them.

3. Debt collectors are typically not sympathetic to your personal story or situation. They are like a racehorse with blinders on – all they see is collecting your money! It is a waste to spend energy trying to explain your situation and can sometimes complicate matters by divulging too much information.

4. Debt collectors often get paid when you pay your debt. This is how they earn an income, and in some instances, they are seeing a portion or commission of your collection.

5. You will often feel guilty for your negligence as debt collectors are trained to associate your lack of payment as a lack of personal character. This association typically makes people feel horrible. Remember, it is just business.

6. Collection agencies have often purchased your debt at a discount. This means they are seeing a profit if you pay your full debt, and often still see a profit if you pay a portion of your debt. You likely have more room to negotiate how much you will pay than one might expect.

7. Your conversation is often being heard by silent parties. In a classic good cop/bad cop routine, a supervisor and a voice are planning their tactics on the sidelines as to how they are going to collect your debt and what the terms will be.

8. Your debt may be past the statute of limitations, which means it could be past terms for a garnishment or execution of a judgement. While the debt may still linger on your credit report, the debt collector may be trying to collect on a debt in which you can no longer be successfully sued from a creditor for.

9. There are attorneys who will talk to you free of charge about your situation. Remember that an attorney likely has several years of schooling in the world of law whereas a debt collector likely doesn’t. Consider your sources when understanding your personal rights.

10. You cannot go to jail for not paying your debt, with the exception of taxes, child support, or a court ordered payment. Fear is a sales tactic in the business of debt collection, nothing more, nothing less.

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(rn/tl 11.4.11)